NOTE TO BLOG VISITORS - I am not currently doing noodle restaurant visit reports, but focusing on diving more deeply into noodle research, so this blog will be updated less frequently. For the latest Asian noodle news, and features from external sources, follow
Sunday, June 26, 2016
After my first visit to Hanlin Tea Room I couldn't let more than a week go by without returning to try the Taiwan Beef Noodle Soup. TWBNS is a noodle soup genre with a cult following that I'm always looking to collect more data points on; I've never been to Taiwan (or Monterey Park, for that matter) and I would like some day to have confidence in my ability to recognize a "good" Taiwan Beef Noodle Soup when I see (and taste) one. Since Hanlin Tea Room is a Taiwan-based chain of some note, it was reasonable to assume it might provide a clue or two.
When my soup arrived, I was surprised (but not disappointed) to discover that it came with the same Iron Goddess Tea-infused noodles that I went the previous week to investigate; a discussion with my then server had left me with the impression that the TWBNS came with conventional (wheat only) noodles. The noodles rested in a dark, tomato-less and beefy broth that inched toward the spicy, rather than the medicinal end of the Taiwan Beef Noodle Soup broth spectrum, but not so much as to cause discomfort for any but the most spice-averse slurpers. The cushion of noodles supported a full meal's worth of meltingly tender chunks of beef brisket with just enough fat on them, as well as some slices of carrots and daikon radish.
Where slurped: Hanlin Tea Room, 809 Kearny St., San Francisco
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Hanlin Tea Room, a Taiwanese chain which originated in Tainan, opened its San Francisco branch today in the commodious space at the corner of Jackson and Kearny Streets once intended for Ten Ren's Tii Restaurant and Tii Cafe. Hanlin claims to be "The first store to sell milk tea with tapioca pearls in Taiwan" but it is much more than a boba joint. It's a casually elegant eatery with a range of fine teas (available by the pot or iced), Taiwanese style "small eats" and more elaborate lunch and dinner fare.
According to Hanlin Tea Room's promotional materials, development of their tea noodles required studying the procedure in Japan, and testing of various teas for suitability; they finally settled on an aromatic Tie Guanyin ("Iron Goddess") tea for this purpose. There are three tea noodle variants on Hanlin's menu: Pork Chop Noodles, Fried Chicken Noodles and Chicken Leg Noodles. In actuality, the meat "toppings" are side dishes, and the sole visible protein in bowl as served is a herd-boiled "tea" egg which tastes of pu'er tea.
My "pork chop" was in fact a breaded and fried pork cutlet, tonkatsu-style, sliced for convenince. It was tender, juicy and tasty, but had little connection to the noodle soup, other than a pork-flavor "theme:" I wondered later if it weren't meant to be tossed into the soup.
Where slurped: Hanlin Tea Room, 809 Kearny St., San Francisco
|Source: Hanlin Tea Room Website|
Thursday, June 16, 2016
Chongqing Xiao Mian is the sixth effort by the ex-Z&Y pair that began by transforming The Pot Sticker into (now defunct) "Ma La Yi Pin" and later took over the venerable Uncle's Cafe (now Spicy King) down the street on Waverly Place. They also operate Spicy Queen in the Richmond, as well as outposts in San Mateo and Newark. Unlike the other venues, Ma La Yi Pin #6, as its menu dubs it, is from the mian guan (noodle house) mold, focused on noodles and accompanying appetizers and side dishes As such, it is a more inviting place for people like me who fly solo and are just looking for noodles and a nosh without the guilt of occupying a space at a full-service restaurant promoting more elaborate and profitable dishes. In this respect, the Chinese mian guan is really the prototype of the ramen-ya.
Like some of the group's other branches, Chongqing Xiao Mian offers a whole range of regional noodle styles, including Guilin mi fen, Wuhan Hot Dry Noodles, liang fen, etc. along with other Sichuan classics. With such a range, one tends to be skeptical, but since this branch is a noodle-focused enterprise I'm hopeful the chef knows what he's doing.
Where Slurped: Chong Qing Xiao Mian, 915 Kearny St., San Francisco
Thursday, June 9, 2016
A couple of years go I completed (or so I thought) a mission of sampling all eight versions of mohinga, the catfish chowder considered the national dish of Burma, available in San Francisco proper. It turns out I had missed one which was hiding in plain sight on the menu at T-28, the Chinese/Hong Kongese/Macanese and, apparently, Burmese restaurant on Taraval better known for its Macau Pork Chop Sandwich. Since then, the boom in Burmese restaurants in the Bay Area has added another four or five versions, so I decided it was high time to resume my Mohinga March.
Tender Loving Food's version of mohina is not eleganty "plated", i.e. with the respective garnishes carefully arrayed across the top, but what it lacks in beauty it makes up in heartiness. It was probably the thickest version I have encountered, and the most gingery. Part of the heartiness had to do with the quantity of rice vermicelli noodles they managed to pack into a bowl; it was perhaps too noodle-forward for my tastes (and I don't often make that criticism) but it may have been designed with the nutritional needs of the neighborhood in mind. Even Kenny Bania would admit this is a meal. The broth itself was also thick, not overly fishy, and gingery. Among the solids lurking is its depths were actual ginger slices along with the bits of chick pea fritters and samusa skin. I'm one who likes to chew on the ginger, so I considered the slices as little gifts. Along with the soup came a little container of cracked pepper and a couple of lime wedges. A squeeze of lime and a pinch of the pepper played nicely against the ginger and rendered the broth at once more sprightly and more complex.
In short, Tender Loving Food serves up a bowl of mohinga that may be a bit wabe but still rises above the coarseness of its environs. Be brave. Be hungry. Go there!
Where slurped: Tender Loving Food, 393 Eddy Street, the Tenderloin, San Francisco.